It was a grey December day when I last went to Stamfordham. On Tuesday 7 May 2013 I went again to an evening by John Grundy and Peter Ryder. Both were Historic Buildings Inspectors in the days long before English Heritage and we have them to thank for a lot of work on the Northumberland Pevsner. John now has a good time on TV, and Peter is an archaeologist. He has spent some time looking closely at St Mary’s, and presented his findings to a full church. They believe that the church has good Saxon roots, very early Saxon. There is a Saxon carving from here at Durham Cathedral, which also has links with Hexham – http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/corpus.php?pageNum_urls=500
There are Saxon stones in the tower (inside and out), and when you stand at the Chancel step and look west you can imagine the high nave being a Saxon church. It has the right proportions and looks very similar to Jarrow. The church is on a hill, overlooking what was once probably a lake – actually quite a large expanse of water – fish for the use of the monks. An interesting question asked was where the monks would have lived – don’t think large stone buildings (which, of course, we immediately do). Apparently there are Saxon churches elsewhere where it looks as if the high naves actually had a dormitory floor.
Last time I came I missed this C13 carving. It’s hidden behind the organ and not easy to photo. The tiles by the altar are good quality. At the back is a memorial to an Indefatigable school master – you can just imagine him! A good evening. A gorgeous church, which is well worth a visit (and please make a donation, it is not a cheap church to maintain).